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Review: Brainwavz Earpads

  1. Teerhand

    Brainwavz Micro Suede XL

    Setup: Ultramatch Pro SRC2496, Fiio M3k, LG V10, Beyerdynamic Dt990

    I have used the Dt990 for the better part of a decade now, and switched earpads every year, since the original Beyerdynamic earpads are especially prone to flattening to a point they affect sound reproduction and comfort negatively.
    This year i decided to check out Brainwavz replacement pads, hoping for a longer lifespan and i was also curious as to how sound would be affected.
    This review is viable for all open back headphones, since the Dt990 are a good representative for that class.

    There are two caveats comparing the dt990 results to other open back headphones. The Dt990 are diffusion field headphones, meaning they were tuned to emulate a room with speakers in it. Of course this has limits which naturally are reached pretty fast, and nice imaging in the original mix is always more important, but this is a quality along with airiness and bass Response, which are influenced by the choice of earpads in a not insignificant manner, also the dt990 have a reputation for sharp highs, at least for people that are sensitive to treble (which i´m not) and are also sensitive to changes in their high frequency response, since thats where their diffusion field tuning takes part mainly. So take this in consideration when applying my experiences to your open back cans.

    My main concern during testing is flawed frequency response, such as tunnel effects (high frequency reflections) or negative influence on soundstage.

    As a reference i use a pair of Adam A5x Speakers with a KRK 10s sub, so i could always go back to a constant sound signature that i´m familiar with. Also i´m limiting the description of sound to fairly obvious changes in qualities, since a real A/B comparison wasn´t possible, since the brain tends to fog impressions pretty fast and I don´t have two pairs of Dt990 and changing pads takes some time. Mainly i listened to a respective Earpad for quite a while, and later in the process switched them to confirm my impressions.

    I listened to a list of albums that i know pretty well and also have specific characteristics that magnify certain aspects of sound reproduction (i.e. another brick in the wall to check accurate soundstage etc) if you´re interested in the list, write a comment. Also i played a fair amount of Battlefront II, since Amazon was so nice as to discount it and that game has pretty nice sounding effects.
    I also used a synthesizer with a drumkit in Reaper (DAW) when in doubt if a certain impression was just a hunch or not.

    Brainwavz sent me several different Earpads from their XL line (110mm diameter) and the smaller 100mm diameter versions of their earpads. I got those for free, and Brainwavz didn´t ask for a specific outcome or to edit my findings in any way, to ensure an unbiased opinion.

    Micro Suede
    Perforated PU Leather
    Hybrid (Velours/PU Leather

    1) Build quality and materials

    Seams and materials were flawless in all samples, except the xl velours pad, which had a crooked seam, that didn´t affect function or comfort. The pads are filled with memory foam, which is quite a bit firmer than the original foam used in Beyerdynamics pads, which i hope reflects in a longer lifespan, my main concern with the original pads. The memory foam, while firm, is very comfortable, and i really enjoyed all the room around my ears (with the 110mm models), which also added to climatic comfort, the microsuede being the most comfortable and the perforated puleather pads gave me hot ears after two hours, which was to be expected.

    The 100mm versions sit pretty tight around the headphones, while not as tight as those from Beyerdynamic, which you needed to heat up to apply properly to the headphones (this isn´t necessary with Brainwavz)

    The 110mm versions on the other hand, which are advertised for the dt990 on their homepage, sit rather like a sock, easy to apply but at first i had my concerns as to which this would cause problems in daily use. This wasn´t the case though, and its just a thing to get accustomed to at first, although i would like them to sit a little tighter, if that would be possible without compromising their fit on other models (after all the pads have to fit a wide array of headphones and Brainwavz opted for 100 and 110mm for that reason)

    The 110mm look less sleek on the headphones though, so if looks are a big concern for you, go for the 100mm.

    Both versions are 2cm deep, compared to roughly 1,5cm of the original pads.

    A positive sideeffect to their size, is that, when not in use, the pads are touching on the whole of their surface, so you don´t get the typical dent earpads get that are touching only on the lower part and are stored on a hanger.

    2) Sound

    The 100mm versions are pretty identical in size to the originals, and so it doesn´t surprise, that the velours version also sounds identical. Some might argue that a different foam density should be noticeable, if thats the case its to a degree thats too small for me, or got lost in transition between pads.

    The 100mm hybrid shows an elevation in the roughly 100hz area, manifesting in more punch in certain tracks, trading in some airyness which come originally with the dt990. I didn´t notice any unwanted reflections or tunnel effects which i was most concerned with, but the fenestrated PU Leather in combination with how deep the pads are makes them sound narrower. A tradeoff you must be willing to accept, if you really like your tight kicks.

    After switching to the considerably bigger 110mm velours pads, I immediatly noticed an increase in airieness, which i liked very much, bass was recessed by a small amount as well. In case of the dt990 thats not much of a concern since these headphones present more than enough bass to beginn with. If you are missing bass though the velours pads in 110mm might not be the right choice.

    With the micro suede pads i didn´t notice this slight recession in bass response (the suede material is a fair bit denser, compared to velours), while the airy quality persisted, also this was the most comfortable of the pads, i really liked the material. The combination of impressively widening the sound, without losing bass, makes these my favourite earpads, and in my opinion the improve the sound of the dt990´s alltogether.

    The hybrid and perforated leather pads again showed a slight elevation in bass response, resulting in a more punchy bass. The hybrid being the more comfortable of the two, in the long run. Soundwise it really comes down to preference. While i liked the micro suede the best, if your headphones lack a little in the bass department, these two are for you.

    None of the pads created flawed frequency response, while tunnel effects are more to be expected from deeper leather pads, which nobody would recommend for open back headphones anyway. Soundstage was affected positively due to the more spacious 110mm diameter, which adds to the feeling of a room.

    In conclusion, if you want to keep your headphones sound signature, but switch your headphones original earpads for memory foam, get the 100mm velours pads (assuming your headphones came with velours as well)
    If this is not important for you, and you are not relying on your headphones for work and are already accustomed to their sound, the 110 mm microsuede and hybrid pads are an upgrade over the original Beyerdynamic, in my my opinion.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2019
    wuwhere likes this.
  2. wuwhere Contributor
    I received my pair of Micro Suede XL today for my HE-6. I like the plastic ziplock pouch, I can store my old earpads in it. These are wider than the stock HE-6 earpads, the outside diameter. But the inside diameter is about the same. This is important to me. I didn't want any part of the driver covered. I believe it muffles the sound. That's the reason why I don't like oval shaped earpads, the round ones outside but oval inside. They are also 10mm thicker so the volume is larger and the driver is further away, very comfortable. The sound is slightly bigger. I think this is due to the larger volume and the driver a little further away from my ears. For me, overall they are well worth their price.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2019

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